There are two ways to build a car: the right way and every other way. The way in which Sean Abellana's 1,100hp 2JZ-powered Nissan 240SX came to life represents the former. But don't think that means Sean didn't experience a bit of "every other way" in the process. He did, but true to form, Sean would rather focus on the positive.
Let's confirm your first suspicion... In order to build a car at this level, it ain't cheap! But Sean has done very well for himself. For years, he flew helicopters as a lead pilot for Maverick Helicopters. He also repaired high-voltage power lines, as well as shuttled oil workers to and from any of the 3,500 offshore rigs dotting the Gulf of Mexico. Today, Sean and his wife, Terra, are the proud entrepreneurs of Las Vegas Air Charters—a company that arranges private flights to Vegas for high rollers and members of the social elite.
One golden rule Sean has learned is the value of discretion. Those who have followed Sean's build on social media will have noticed certain steps repeated along the way. "It took some time for me to discover the right mix of parts, retailers, builders, and tuners," Sean said. "But I did, and there's no reason to mention anyone else. If you want to build a car of this caliber without wasting time and money, this is the way."
This is Sean's first build. He's always liked cars and racing. "In '83, I had a Volvo 240 turbo that I used to rip the handbrake on and slide around corners," he laughed. But it wasn't until after he and Terra moved to Nevada that he had a chance to build one to the standards he'd always envisioned. A trip to a local Vegas Drift event introduced him to Forrest Wang and the Get Nuts Lab crew. Sean was immediately impressed. "The level of work Forrest put into his cars and the way he drove them on track was second to none," Sean attested.
Inspired by Forrest's personal, street-driven, black S14 240SX, Sean worked with Forrest to find a stock S14 for himself, then hatched a plan to build the ultimate street/drift S-chassis. Sean and a few close friends took care of a lot of the grunt work in his own garage, stripping the car down to its shell, creating a full mil-spec chassis wiring harness, installing much of the interior components, and even molding the car's carbon-fiber dash with Rainer "Ray" Ramolete of Raysfactory. But the bulk of the heavy lifting was carried out by Virtual Works Racing and Get Nuts Lab.
"I considered going with an RB powerplant at first," Sean explained. "But at the power levels we wanted to hit, there's just a lot more support for the 2JZ-GTE." One thousand horsepower is what many in professional U.S. drifting consider ideal for competition, so that was Sean's goal from the start. "Dana Westover and Virtual Works Racing have been building 1,000hp 2Js since '02," Sean continued. "Dana himself has a 7-second Supra that's held together for two years so far on the same engine—hit, after hit, after hit." Since this was to be a streetable build, Virtual Works elected to retain the stock block, build it to the hilt, couple it with an in-house race-ported head with custom-fabricated manifolds, and manage it all with one of the most thorough engine management systems money can buy. Haltech has proven itself as a maker of some of the best available, and the company works closely with Racepak to ensure their products play well together. So, by joining the Haltech Platinum Sport 2000 ECU to the Racepak IQ3 heads-up display, Sean and tuner Kyle LeBlanc of KL Racing Development had visibility into, and control over, all aspects of the engine's 1,100hp power production they could want.
But for as impressive and valuable as the engine is to the car, it's still only one of its components. As Virtual Works did its thing, Forrest took to the car itself, tubbing the front wheelwells and bracing the strut towers. He also fabricated front and rear bash bars, a rear fuel cell support, a fully gusseted rollcage, along with stitch-welding the unibody front to back. He also applied his proven blend of Stance/Parts Shop Max/Battle Version/TEIN adjustable suspension components and even converted the car's S14 front end to an S15, adapting a prototype 2F Performance Super Doof S15 kit in the process.
With nearly all of the mechanicals optimized from the start, there wasn't much room for improvement once the team was finished. The car's upgraded R34 GT-R axles and differential had held up great thus far, but with more than 1,100 on tap, Sean has since switched to a Sikky/Winters quick-change differential and axles. And then there was the issue with wheel fitment. "Stretched tires on this build only give traction up to 300 hp," Sean claimed. "With over 1,000, it's just nutty. Even merging on the freeway at partial throttle, the violent acceleration feels like driving on ice," he laughed. He switched to wider Hankook RS3 rubber, and a more proper stance helped immensely, but Sean's learned to accept some traction loss at full power. "One thousand horsepower is great when you need it," he explained, "but it's always very, very angry."
Since the car's completion, it's garnered quite a respectable share of admirers. Of course we like it, but "the first time Forrest got behind the wheel at a Vegas Drift event," Sean said, "he came back grinning from ear to ear and yelled, 'This car is amazing!'" If you know low-key Forrest, you know that's saying a lot. And then there was this year's Formula D season opener at Long Beach, where the infamous Kei Imura got down on all fours to give the car a thorough lookover before drawing applause from the crowd by proclaiming to Sean in his thick Japanese accent, "Very nice car! Incredible build!"
So what does the future hold for Sean and his monster S14.5? "I've driven the car nearly every day since it's been finished," he told us. "But I also built it to be my weekend warrior." You won't see him going for his pro Formula D license, but you will see him at Top Drift, Vegas Drift, and Sonoma Drift on the weekends. "Some guys play golf," he said in closing. "I do this."